Vaccination is a very important part of our on-going commitment to preventative health care. We strive to provide the most up to date vaccines and vaccine protocols to our patients and will gladly discuss the pros and cons of vaccines in general, and any individual variation from typical recommendations.
“Core Vaccines” are those that are generally recommended for all cats regardless of their lifestyle (i.e. indoors vs outdoors). In all cases this includes vaccination against Rabies. Rabies vaccination in domestic pets is required by law. The other core vaccine for cats is against 3 viral diseases; Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia, often abbreviated FVRCP and given in a single combined injection.
Typically kittens are given an FVRCP vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks.
Why do we give this vaccine to kittens 3 times? The answer is that in order for the body to produce the type of immune response that will provide long term protection, the immune system has to be tricked into thinking that the threat of the illness is recurrent in a short time frame. In other words, the first vaccine is taken somewhat lightly by the immune system, but by re-exposing it to the same vaccine 3-5 weeks later, the immune system mounts the type of response that ensures long term protection.
One thing that can lead the immune system to essentially ignoring a vaccine entirely is the presence in the blood stream of antibodies that the kitten obtained from it’s mother. These maternal antibodies only circulate for a limited time after birth and are usually gone by 2-3 months of age. We give 3 vaccines to kittens so that we are confident that we will get 2 of them back to back at a time when the maternal antibodies will not interfere, but at the same time not leave any patient vulnerable to infection should their maternal antibodies wear off early.
Rabies vaccination is done once in kittens, typically at the 16 week visit. The immune system will generate a good protection from rabies after only one vaccine.
The circulating antibodies (the memory) generated by vaccines does wear off over time, and our schedule for boosters in adult cats is set by what we know about the typical duration of immunity any given vaccine provides. Currently we boost both FVRCP and Rabies at the first set of “adult” vaccines, typically at 16 months of age. After that we will only give the FVRCP every 3 years. As we use a non -adjuvanted (i.e. immune boosting additive free) Rabies vaccine in cats, this vaccine must be given yearly.
For cats that go outdoors we strongly recommend vaccination against Feline Leukemia Virus. This vaccine is given where indicated to kittens at the 12 and 16 week visit, then yearly after that.